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How To Write A Book Description

It seems like drafting two or three sentences for your book description should be simple. You’ve put how many hours did you put into planning, writing, and editing your book? Hundreds? Probably. You know this book inside and out. 

And yet…

Writing a book description is hard. You’ve got to grab a reader’s attention and sell them on your book; all in the space of about 250 words. That’s basically the same as writing a single page to convince someone to buy your book.

Book Descriptions Are Your Call To Action

In the marketing world, your call to action (CTA) is usually a single statement that aims to drive action. For authors, the book blurb is the closest thing to a CTA you’ll have. 

And to be effective at drawing in potential readers, you must treat your description much like a marketer treats a CTA. That means relying on market research and data more than your own feelings.

The book is your story, your work of art. The blurb is your sales pitch. Be certain you’re thinking of these as two very distinct pieces of text.

You also must think about the audience you’re hoping to attract to your book. If you’re promoting largely to a captive audience (people who know you, your brand, or your work already), then your marketing plan will focus on personalized and direct contact. But if you plan to market through advertising, like say on Facebook or Twitter, you’ll need more broad appeal. 

For a very specific niche, your description might be simple. Fans coming to your retail pages are already interested in reading the book, so a hard-sell isn’t necessary. 

Think like a marketer for your description; audience first with a defined goal.

How To Write A Book Description

There’s no simple way to write a good book description. No ‘one-size-fits-all’ formula to follow. In fact, I’ll list four points I think you can use to guide you, but I do so after acknowledging that this only applies for some authors and some books.

  1. Hook – The first sentence grabs the reader and nearly forces them to keep reading.
  2. Connection – For nonfiction, the connection should address a pain point the book aims to solve. For Fiction, you’ll use some personal information about your characters.
  3. Escalation – Ramp up the importance, risk, or drama just a little. 
  4. Bait – Finally, you need to hint at how much more there is between the covers than you’ve given away in the description.

I like to use this four-part guide to help evaluate a book’s description. If you’re marketing to an audience already interested in your book, you might not push the hook so much and focus on the connection. The escalation is often irrelevant for nonfiction and can be replaced with credentials or some other selling point.

That said, I think there’s a methodology to writing your blurb, whether it’s a nonfiction or fiction book description. 

Fiction Book Descriptions

I suggest writing four sentences, one for each of my points above; Hook, Connection, Escalation, and Bait. This short paragraph is your framework for your book description. 

With it ready, I’d shop around this mini-description to your friends and fellow writers. Ask them to read it and see if they can guess what your book is about. And would they want to read this book.

Now comes the free-form part; you’ve got to massage this mini-description into something a little longer. Keep the comments from your friends in mind as you develop a proper book description. 

Finally, you need to get the feedback of beta readers. People who have read your story—ask them to give the description a look and weigh in. Is it true to the story? Does it highlight the major points in the plot and characters? Is it enticing?

Do more editing and, as the very last step, craft a single hook sentence. This is the line that will stand out at the top of the back cover. It will be the one line that does almost as much work as your title. 

Nonfiction Book Descriptions

Where a fiction book description is creative and enticing, a nonfiction book description will be utilitarian. I still recommend starting with four sentences to form a short paragraph version of your description.

But the framework you create will focus on a problem and your solution. Because at their core, all nonfiction books in one way or another address a problem. Your description must outline that problem and your unique approach to it.

So when you ask for input on your book description outline, specifically ask your friends and fellow writers what they think the problem is. If they aren’t able to identify the problem, you’ll need to rework the outline. 

Then follow the same plan; expand the outline into a complete description. Go through a couple iterations and review from beta readers before finalizing. And don’t be afraid to add some of your qualifications to support your expertise.

Should I Use A Book Description Generator?

No. There isn’t an AI in the world that can match your ability to understand and relate your story. 

What you can do is use search marketing tools like Moz or SEMRush. Some basic keyword research goes a long way toward informing the questions readers are asking. You don’t need to use keywords exactly (which is what a generator WILL do); instead you want to think about how your book description might answer some questions a reader might search. 

Bottom line, avoid any kind of automated writing solution or generator. Readers want a human voice, not a robot. 

Book Description Examples

Luckily, finding inspiration for your book description is easy. You can go to a library and flip over book after book to find examples! 

I’ll highlight a few that use the methods I covered, but remember that there is no one ‘right way’ to create a description. So long as your book description captures a reader’s attention and entices them to read more, it’s working.

Where The Crawdad’s Sing by Delia Owens

“For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life–until the unthinkable happens.”

Owens’ debut novel has been on the NY Times bestseller list for 89 weeks and counting. While these lists are not a proper measure of quality, if you’ve read Where The Crawdad’s Sing, you know it’s an incredible novel. 

Get Where The Crawdads Sing on Indiebound

Now take a look at the description. The opening line is subtle but enticing. We’ve got questions (what or who is a “Marsh Girl”?) and we’ve got a mood/setting (the haunting, quiet town). Then we meet our characters, particularly Kya, who is misunderstood, intelligent, sensitive, and a survivor. Plus, we find that she’s not satisfied with her situation (she yearns to be touched), leading to the escalation. And finally, those last four words; until the unthinkable happens.

This description is, to me, a perfect example and model for a fiction book description.

A Baker’s Daughter by Marcy Brenner & Kristin Donnan

“The daughter of a beloved baker revives her father’s famous recipes, and in the process discovers her family’s fierce love—as well as its secrets. A unique narrative cookbook about a family bakery, Brenner’s Bakery in Alexandria, VA, complete with 50 of the most beloved treats in kitchen-sized recipes.”

Changing it up, A Baker’s Daughter is an amazing cookbook that includes a family narrative. It’s like an instructive memoir, I guess. 

The description is pretty simple, but still very effective. The first line gives the impression that this is just a cookbook but quickly transitions to something more personal. Most intriguing is the prospect of exploring a family’s history and secrets through a cookbook. 

Get The Baker’s Daughter on the author’s website

I might argue that the description needs one more sentence to close it out and leave us wanting a little more, but since this a cookbook, there’s a fairly narrow and specific audience. So the authors can get away with the ‘less is more’ principle and let the recipes sell the book while the narrative builds the mystique of the story. 

Whale by Matthew Ratzlaff

Whale: The Oral History Of Canadian Drumming Prodigy Ryan Loerke

“In 2003, in the quiet vacation city of Kelowna, British Columbia, eighteen-year-old Ryan Loerke jumped at a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity—to drum professionally for major label-signed rock band Stutterfly. Over the next decade, Ryan would embark on a spirited journey with Stutterfly, Secret & Whisper, and other musical ventures that seemed destined for stardom. He would play big stages in the States and Japan, shoot music videos, get supplied with industry-leading drum endorsements, and experience the highs and lows of fighting to stay alive in the America-dominated alternative music industry.

Written in the form of interviews between Ryan and longtime friend Matthew Ratzlaff, “WHALE” reveals an intimate portrait of a professional drummer from Canada’s millennial generation. By turns inspiring, hilarious, insightful, and tragic, offered is a deep dive into the dedicated and creative mind of a modern musical role model and the vibrant musical culture that shaped him.”

For our last example, we have a nonfiction history about musician Ryan Loerke. The opening line places us in time (2003) and identifies the subject (Loerke) and his profession. We’re relying on the rock and roll to be our hook, but I think that’s a pretty safe bet. What follows is the complications of being a musician (which are pretty commonly known) and the escalation of Loerke’s career as he travels the world. 

Get Whale on the Lulu Bookstore

What I love most about this one is the bait. Rather than anything elusive or speculative, the description ends on a positive note. That defied my expectations, as I imagine rockstars burning out in drug-fueled moments of self-destruction. But this isn’t that kind of story and we know that from the last line of the description. WHALE sets itself apart, which to me is just a brilliant way to bait a reader into wanting more.

Don’t Neglect Your Book Description

It’s that simple. You can’t neglect your description. It’s a vital sales pitch for your book. And it’s the one piece of copy that you can put in front of potential readers to drive their interest in the book.

Paul is the Content Marketing Manager at Lulu. When he's not entrenched in the publishing and print-on-demand world, he likes to hike the scenic North Carolina landscape, read, sample the fanciest micro-brewed beer, and collect fountain pens. Paul is a dog person but considers himself cat tolerant.

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